l Ana and l Bettina

The two best-dressed women in Milan are not Grade-A sciuras or rich, palazzo hopping girls-about-town. They are not even Italian.  Spanish-born Ana Gimeno Brugada and German-born Bettina Oldenburg are Milanese transports who quietly and humbly go about their hard-hitting fashion jobs while wearing jaw-dropping clothing that does all the talking.

Maximal in eye, minimal in mood, and deeply sophisticated in taste, these fiercely fashionable women exert an other-worldly control over chaotic patterning, taming bright colors, mad-cap details and clashing prints with an unbelievably deft, distinctive hand.

During fashion week, the street style photographers—not the crappy ones, swarm the couple mind you, but elite snappers like Tommy Ton and Adam Katz, who know the difference between the trash and class that unfolds on Milan’s crowded streets.

“Ana Gimeno Brugada is dressing better than roughly 99.999% of the men at Pitti this year,” marveled The Wall St. Journal’s Off Duty reporter, during Florence’s menswear fair.

Who the heck are these mystery women of style?  The wheat-haired Bettina, who has the steady calm (not to mention the creamy complexion) of Tilda Swinton, is the Collection Director at Bottega Veneta, a covert but crucial job that links the design team’s creativity with the company’s saleable merchandising arm.   She has been the secret weapon at top fashion brands from Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Alexander McQueen for the last 15 years, always operating anonymously out of the limelight.  “I’m very behind the scenes in my job,” Bettina says, “but I love what I do.”

Ana too, is a designer’s back-pocket resource, consulting on design, merchandising and styling for such brands as Dries Van Noten, and Brunello Cucinelli, the latter of which brought her to Milan 15 years ago.

With tossed salt-and-pepper hair, wiry limbs and a wardrobe that she mixes like no other woman on the planet, Ana came out of the womb with a wondrous sense of style:  “Even at my first job in Barcelona, the fashion designer was asking me how to dress,” she laughs.  “In high school, people always asked me to help them go shopping.”

“Ana is much more striking than me,” Bettina observes of their personal style.  “She is a beauty and a personality.  She can’t go anywhere where she’s not looked at and observed.”

Still, Ana rolls her eyes at the circus surrounding fashion week and the pretense of cool.   “When you look at photos of these bloggers, there’s nothing there,” she says.  “Not all of them have the culture.  During fashion week, sometimes they are just trying to get shots of people in the newest clothes. This drives me crazy because I don’t want to be catalogued in that world.”

Her and Bettina’s world, meanwhile, is of fantasy-laden creativity—a glimpse of which we were lucky to witness during our photo-shoot with the duo in Milan’s Salvatore Lanteri gallery. Both women brought their own clothes to show how they would style LaDoubleJ’s vintage pieces.  The cacophonic contents of their suitcases would have looked like a car crash to any mere mortal. But in these women’s sure hands, artful looks suddenly crystallized out of the chaos, as they swerved around tradition, and happily smashed all fashion rules to bits.

Read all the Fashion Rules HERE!

Story Credits
  • Creative Director- J.J. Martin
  • Portrait Photography- Alberto Zanetti
  • Fashion Director- Viviana Volpicella
  • Location Photography- Mattia Iotti